I have a major obsession with researching historical clothing, yet I so very rarely get to make any as most of my paid work tends to be parade and event work, or fairly small scale theatre with no budget for the kind of things I want to make. Trying to eke out the time to make stuff for myself is a tricky one, and I've got a LOT of unfinished projects lying around. In order to get something completed then, I needed a deadline... a Victorian Ball on the horizon with nothing to wear is a good starting point!
I'd previously stumbled across photos from the 'Spectacular Spectacular' Ball hosted by Izabella Pritcher of Prior Attire in 2012, and kicked myself for not knowing about it before. Luckily for me, she decided to organise another one, this time a Victorian Ball at the Assembly Rooms in Bath, in May 2015. I snapped up two tickets, and my sister didn't need much persuasion to agree to come with me!
As I would be making two ensembles; one for myself and one for Becky, it made sense to try tackling two different dress styles within the Victorian period. As far as underpinnings go, I knew I wanted to make a round hoop crinoline, and a lobster tail bustle. I had instructions for both from online sources (here, here), and was raring to give them a go.
I picked an 1850s style for myself, so began by making a one layer white cotton coutil corset based on Norah Waugh's 1860s (close enough) pattern from Corsets & Crinolines. I am very thin, and a problem I'd noted with a previous corset was that if it is made to my measurements, and then laced to shrink my waist, my ribs just end up squashed. Usually there's fat there that gets displaced, hence the boob lift, but in my case, nope. This time round I tried to make sure there was extra room around my ribcage, so that I can shrink my waist in without hurting my sides in the process.
|Blurry photos - a final check before adding the binding.|
It was much more comfortable, although a little more pattern tweaking couldn't hurt for the next one down the line. After half a day's wear my ribs were fine but I found that the shortness of the corset made it dig into my hips a bit. This is likely due to needing to allow more space for the hips in the pattern, but it could also be a boning issue. I recently got round to buying some of the german plastic whalebone that everyone's been raving about so I'll be trying it out in future makes, rather than the spiral steel boning that I used here.
I also made a simple cotton chemise using a free pattern from www.thesewingacademy.com, although I can't find the right link for it right now.
More Victorian Ball posts to come!